Let’s Twist Again Like We Did Last Summer

Photo by Karl Callwood on Unsplash

Hello SEers. John is with you today and want to wish you a Happy May Day. I’m not sure folks still prance around a Maypole anymore, but the idea of decorating the pole with entwined ribbons supports the subject of today’s post – Plot twists.

Before I begin, I must thank Staci Troilo for suggesting the subject of this post. She was also the motivation for the series on humor. Therefore, I must publicly say, “I owe you two, Staci.” If she gets stuck on a subject, I will be available to offer suggestions.

For those of you who read any of my prompt posts, you know I love plot twists. I’m not sure I am good enough to put them in my books, but I’m always ready to plug one in for a short story for practice.

So here we go on the subject of plot twists.

Plot twists are a valuable storytelling tool, whether in books, movies, or TV shows. A plot twist is a sudden and unexpected shift in the narrative that changes the direction of the story, revealing new information that alters the way the audience perceives the events and characters.

A good plot twist can leave a lasting impact on the audience, making them reevaluate everything they thought they knew about the story. In addition, it can create tension, surprise, and excitement, keeping the audience engaged and interested in the story.

One of the most famous plot twists is the revelation in the movie “The Sixth Sense” (spoiler warning) that the protagonist, Dr. Malcolm Crowe, has been dead the whole time. This twist completely changes the audience’s perception of the story and makes them rethink all the previous events, adding a new layer of depth to the characters and their actions.

However, not all plot twists are created equal. A poorly executed twist can come across as contrived, confusing, or unsatisfying. A plot twist needs to be both surprising and believable. It should fit within the story’s context, and the reader should not feel it was added solely for the sake of shock value.

So what kind of twists do writers create that leave a lasting impact on the audience, elevating the story and making it memorable? Here are some of the more successful twists.

1 Take a character that appears to be the victim and twist the story so that character is not the innocent they seem to be but are actually the perpetrator.

2 Create a story where your narrator is responsible for the mayhem and has been lying to the reader all along.

3 Create a central character with an alter ego that the narrator believes is a different personality, only to find they are one and the same. If you want to rock it, make it the narrator who discovers that the alter ego is the narrator.

4 Create a story around a grand conspiracy. Provide plenty of information that supports the reader’s belief that the conspiracy is a natural story element. Then twist it to provide evidence that the conspiracy is a hoax leaving the reader to decide which is which. (Moo Haha.)

5 Create a ghost story where the reader is exposed to evidence that the ghosts are merely a figment of the narrator’s imagination. This is after the reader is convinced that the happenings in the story result from paranormal activity.

6 Create a story that appears to be in the past but is in reality in the future. A dramatic exposure of this fact can be dramatic.

Not all twists have to be this dramatic to make an impression on the reader. A twist can be a simple deviation from what has been established as reality. For example, if an author has created an expectation of what could be behind that creepy door leading to the basement. Maybe it’s an expectation of cobwebs and icky stuff that runs from the light. But, a twist could very well be a sterile hospital room that surprises the reader and leads to more uncertainty.

The point is a twist; to be effective has to circumvent expectations with a plausible alternative that makes sense. Otherwise, the twist may just come off as a cheap trick.

How about you? Do you have any suggestions for plot twists? Maybe you have read something that really took you by surprise. Tell us about it in the comment section.

84 thoughts on “Let’s Twist Again Like We Did Last Summer

  1. I grew up with the Isaac Asimov school of writing. No matter how clever the story is, no matter how accomplished, shock or surprise your readers with the ending otherwise you have failed as a writer.
    I do not think that this is necessarily true, however it definitely helps. I have followed this mantra in all my years of writing. I noticed someone mentioned Karin Slaughter’s Triptych which I loved. Read “The Crow Girl” by Erik Axel Sund. There was a master of the surprise twist.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m another fan of a great plot twist – but it has to be done well and make sense when the book’s re-read. Karin Slaughter’s Triptych caught me twice in the one book and was masterfully done. Many thanks for this, John. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I always harken back to The Others, remade starring Nicole Kidman in 2001, where she and her kids move into a haunted house, but by the end we learn the ghosts are the real people and Nicole and her kids are the ghosts. Coolest twist ever. Like, The Sixth Sense, you have to watch again to see how cleverly the clues were woven through. Thanks for a thought-provoking post, John.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. “The point is a twist; to be effective has to circumvent expectations with a plausible alternative that makes sense.” This is the big point for successful plot twists in my eyes, John. I love them as long as they make some sense within the characters/plot.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I don’t do plot twists that I can think of, with possibly one short story. According to my first creative writing professor, the two cardinal sins of plot twists are:

    I woke up, and it was all a dream.
    The first person narrator is actually a dog.

    I remember a Jodi Picoult plot twist that made me so angry I swore I’d never read another book by her.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Excellent post, John. I love a good plot twist. I’ve worked one into a current project I’m working on. It’s a twist that even took me by surprise. I had the story all plotted out, when I had one of those “What if . . . ” moments. You mentioned The Sixth Sense. Alejandro Amenabar’s The Others executed that sort of twist with perfection.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I like reading twists, and I like seeing them in TV shows, but I haven’t tried writing one in anything longer than a short story. I think it would be hard to carry the hints and secrets throughout a book. You’ve given some good examples, though. Thanks for that.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I love twists in my reading, John, but only add teeny ones into my books. I’m not confident enough to write big ones. It’ would be really fun to practice though and I like your brainstorming of ideas. Some of them are big enough to create a whole story around. A fun post, my friend.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I love twists that I don’t see coming. I remember reading Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. It is narrated in first person, and (spoiler) at the end, it’s the narrator what dun it!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Sixth Sense is one of my favorite plot twist. I love when I don’t see it coming. Anytime I’m surprised in reading a book, its a good plot twist for me. Great post, John 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Some of the best plot twists I’ve read and watched were initially cliches. The writer deftly had me discounting the potential of the twist when… BAM! With a turn or two, made the cliche fresh. Take a cliche and play the what-if game. The results can surprise you and delight readers.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I still remember how dumbfounded I was at the end of The Sixth Sense. I’ve only ever experienced a plot twist that masterful and shocking one other time, and that was with the novel Three by Ted Dekker. A good plot twist remains long after the book is finished.
    Even those of a less earth-shattering nature elevate stories to a higher level.

    As a writer, I love using a good twist, and as a reader, I find they bring a huge sense of satisfaction when reading. Great topic, John!

    Liked by 4 people

  13. I love a story that causes me to gasp when the plot takes a hard right or left. You listed some great examples of plot twists. One I read not too long ago by Colleen Hoover (one of my favorite authors) had a helpless victim, bedfast, unable to move or communicate, who turned out to be a murdering villain. She even murdered her children. I didn’t see that one coming. Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I am trying to get back to my writing again, John, after a couple of non-productive years. I’m working on a novella, and you’ve got me thinking how to pack more into a small space by including an unexpected twist. I got an idea for one while reading this post, so I think I’m gonna give it a try. Thanks for your great examples and the inspiration to FINISH what I’ve started! Super post! 😀

    Liked by 4 people

  15. Great post, John. A good plot twist sets a reader on his or her heels and ups the tension/excitement. You’ve got me thinking this early morn. 😊 Happy May Day!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Pingback: Let’s Twist Again Like We Did Last Summer | Legends of Windemere

We'd love to know what you think. Comment below.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s